The return of Redding students to school in mid-August means more cars, more pedestrians and more cyclists. “Back-to-school” commutes affect all drivers, even those without students in their households.
What should drivers do to adjust?
Safety experts suggest a few simple changes for a safer, stress-free commute:
- Get up 10 minutes earlier.
Drivers in a hurry have less patience, make more mistakes and take more risks than drivers who have plenty of time to get to their destination. Although most of us enjoy commutes of less than 20 minutes, traffic slows down during the first weeks of school until drivers adjust to the changes caused by school zone speed limits, school buses stopping to pick up students, and more cars on the roads as parents drive kids to school. Leaving the house 10 minutes earlier in the morning can provide a cushion for delays so you can stay relaxed and focused on the drive.
- Look for children in unexpected places.
Children are easily distracted and often forget safety rules, especially when they are with friends. Be prepared for children who dart out from between parked cars, cross streets in the middle or don’t look for cars before crossing a street. Drivers need to compensate for kids being kids, even when those kids should know better.
- Drive more slowly near schools.
In California, the maximum speed limit in school zones is 25 mph. Some schools have lower speed limits, so pay attention to signs. If weather or other conditions affect visibility, drivers may be expected to drive even slower than posted speed limits. Regardless of the posted speed limit, slow down in areas where children are likely to walk, bike and play, even if the speed limit doesn’t change.
- Give school buses plenty of room.
When following a school bus, allow extra room between your car and the bus so you have time to stop when the bus stops. Cars going both directions must stop when a school bus is stopped for children to get on or off. The bus will have its lights flashing and its “stop” signal arm extended. Watch children exiting the bus and don’t proceed until they are safely out of the way, even if the school bus lights have stopped flashing. Allow plenty of room between you and a stopped school bus so children can safety board or exit the bus and maneuver around the bus and parked cars. In addition, watch for children running across streets and from between parked cars to catch the bus.
- Watch for inexperienced drivers
Many teens will be driving to school for the first time. Inexperienced drivers make mistakes and may behave unpredictably, especially when encountering traffic situations for the first time. Stay alert and use appropriate defensive driving skills to keep both experienced and new drivers safe on the roads.
The safety attorneys at Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel know that “back-to-school” can be both exciting and stressful. We wish students and families a fun and easy transition into the school year and we ask drivers on the roads to watch for children and make a few changes to keep everyone’s morning commute safe and stress-free.